Please note that our writers visited the Cotswolds prior to the coronavirus pandemic
The allure of the English country cottage is strong; whether you seek privacy, space, or a chance to commune with nature, there are plenty of good reasons to choose a break in Blighty. Particularly if you’re travelling with children, the chance to skip a trip to the airport is difficult to resist.
And there are myriad reasons to head to the Cotswolds: the villages look as if they have strayed into the 21st century from another era, and about 80 per cent of the area remains farmland; it’s a chance for your family to visit traditional England, in many ways. And yet, amid this glorious nature comes a contemporary life which our Cotswolds expert, Harriet O’Brien, characterises as “gentle dynamism” – with plenty of fabulous food and Farrow & Ball colours on the side.
But committing to an English cottage holiday can often feel like playing a game of roulette: faced with thousands of self-catering Cotswolds properties on hundreds of websites, how can you tell which one to choose? Our experts have visited dozens around the country in recent months. Here’s our pick of the best cottages to rent in the Cotswolds, in and around locations including Bourton-on-the-Water, Stow-on-the-Wold, Burford and Chipping Norton.
The Beehive, Poulton
Set in a handsome village in the mid Cotswolds, this three-bedroom property sleeps six and offers the option of an extra pull-out bed in a bedroom well devised for children. Downstairs there’s a large sitting room with flagstone floor and a stone fireplace; a big kitchen giving on to a generous terrace; and a snug. The owner has added small murals here and there – butterflies, birds nesting – which add to the charm of the place.
One night from £135; sleeps up to six (boltholeretreats.co.uk)
Notgrove Holiday Cottages
This is a wonderfully arcadian retreat. Four very stylish cottages have been fashioned from former barns (one sleeps six, the others eight each). It is an utterly charming set up; even the animals here – alapacas, goats and donkeys in an adjacent field – are charming and seem more than happy to be hugged. Flexibility is a key attribute: the elderly, the very young and everyone between are well accommodated. Groups, too: you can rent two, three or all the properties (maximum capacity is 32) for a celebration – with dinners taking place around a long table in the shared games room.
Bridge House, Lower Mill Estate
The house is part of a well-devised gated holiday village in a 450-acre nature reserve about six miles south of Cirencester. It is set in the 40-square-mile Cotswold Water Park, which is actually not a park at all but a former gravel producing district that became a wildlife-rich lakeland area after the pits were gradually filled during the 1980s and 1990s. While the location is brilliant for activities, Bridge House itself is practical and comfortable. The four-bedroom property is an ideal base for enjoying a host of watersports and the great outdoors. Guests get unrestricted use of Mill Village facilities including the outdoor heated swimming pool (all year round), sauna, tennis court, and children’s play area.
Two nights from £812; sleeps up to eight (sykescottages.co.uk)
The Orchard, Upper Oddington
The house, one of the more luxury cottages in the Cotswolds, is a couple of miles from the art galleries and gentle buzz of Stow-on-the-Wold and six miles from the family attractions of Bourton-on-the-Water. Set sideways on to the road, The Orchard at first looks modest, but actually it’s generously large for the six people it accommodates. The absolute wow-factor is the kitchen. A bright and spacious, single-storey addition to this old stone cottage, it has with a lovely dining area that gives on to the garden patio. The rest of the property is set over two floors and features a large and comfy sitting room and three bedrooms. It’s also dog-friendly.
Cerney House, Rendcomb
About a mile north of the pretty village of Rendcomb, Springfield House is very much in a world of its own and offers stupendous views from the terrace of its swimming pool. Ideal for larger groups, this halcyon house has impressive facilities, from a swimming pool and a tennis court to a grand piano in the sitting room, while all five bedrooms have ensuite bathrooms. There’s a good choice of supermarkets, family attractions and fine dining pubs within fairly easy reach.
Four nights from £4075; sleeps up to 10 (mulberrycottages.com)
The Chestnuts, near Burford
Eco-luxury, plenty of space and great style are the main selling points of this four-bedroom, two-sitting room house which sleeps eight (with additional sofa beds). While it is conveniently located near several family attractions, you may simply want to stay put and enjoy the pretty garden and a big, well-stocked kitchen, which make it ideal for summer or winter stays.
Two nights from £766; sleeps up to eight (ecochiccottages.com)
Chippy Cottage, Chipping Norton
A three-bedroom, 18th-century terrace property in the oldest part of Chipping Norton, affectionately called Chippy by locals. Chippy is a no-nonsense place, staunchly proud of its independent shops just down the road from Chippy Cottage. Chippy Cottage, is held to exceptionally high standards and is now a cosily soothing retreat furnished in creams and featuring old beams and exposed stonework.
Two nights from £654; sleeps up to six (character-cottages.co.uk)
Westley Farm cottages, Chalford
Westley Farm’s 75 acres are sublimely beautiful and home to five cottages and a central farmhouse. Donkeys and sheep graze the fields, doves coo from the surrounding woodland, deer and foxes are frequently seen. Hornstone is the largest cottage, sleeping seven and offering the best outlook. The smallest is The Hay Loft which sleeps two in a double bed. Bigger groups could take two or more cottages – in total there is accommodation for 21.
Three nights from £440; sleeps up to four (westleyfarm.co.uk)
Contributions by Harriet O’Brien & Sally Peck
Rates above are guide prices for minimum stays in low season, please note that packages can differ across cottages. Owing to the current coronavirus pandemic, these rates may change. Please check the properties’ websites for further information on what’s included.